Sunday, January 14, 2018

Helen Atwood: A Flower of the Heart



Three Cliffs Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales. Photo by John Ewing

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Flowers of the Heart Sixteeen  January 14, 2018

For Helen Atwood

I met Helen the first time I visited England 
in 1981. She and her husband Dave were
friends of a new friend of mine. Dave was
American and reassured me when I found
the British politeness intimidating. He
claimed they weren’t all that polite. I began 
helping old ladies with their luggage,
giving up my seat to them, and felt better.
Helen was rather quiet. Her baby Hannah
had her full attention. By 1985, when I
returned, she and Dave had separated,
and she was eager for me to visit. I
found their home before she got back
from work, bought myself a drink in a
nearby shop, and waited on their lawn.
I believe I was asleep when they arrived.
Hannah was very surprised to find an
American in the front yard making herself
so much at home. Helen and I had good
talks, and after that short visit, I often
returned. We’d go to a pub and catch
up on each other’s lives. Once I stayed
longer and helped care for Hannah. I met 
Helen’s parents and later her new man
friend, Mike. Helen had grown up in
Wales, and once she arranged for me
to visit her parents there. Mike liked
to ask me hard questions. They invited
another couple curious about this
American who went to Russia and 
Finland. In recent years Helen and
Hannah visited me here. Hannah now
has babies, and Helen loves being a
grandmother. Much of her life has
been difficult. She has never complained,
but I know she has suffered. She writes
me more often now, and her life has
settled into an easier rhythm, and I’m 

still her friend.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Tracey Brocker A Flower of the Heart


Iris in early spring in my backyard

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Flowers of the Heart Fifteen January 7, 2018

For Tracey Brocker

As I age, I make friends more slowly,
sometimes not realizing it has happened.
Often we choose our friends, but sometimes
they choose us. Tracey was cautious
at first. She joined my poetry class. I’d seen 
and said hello to her husband Bill in the
post office, but not met her. She found 
me there, and I welcomed her to join
the class. The other students were
more experienced in writing poems 
in the contemporary way, but she
followed all my suggestions, and
learned from the others, too. She’d
drive to my house in her big truck
and always bring a treat for my dog.
She’d have worked on revisions, and
at the break, I’d let Wag in, and Tracey
would talk to her as if they were old
friends and hold out an especially
delicious treat that made Wag want
to join the poetry class. Her poems
got stronger, and she revealed her feelings
in them more and more. Last summer
I made several unexpected trips to the
Emergency Room of UNC Hospital.
In October Tracey learned ambulances
had been seen in my yard, and she came 
over to investigate. She saw Wag in
the backyard. She called the hospital.
They said I was released. I was in the
waiting room until my daughter
picked me up. Tracey’s concern led me
to put her on my emergency list
and give her my house keys. The next
time I had to go, I called her and 
asked her to feed Wag her supper and
and to give me a ride home. My daughter
had another commitment. Wag is shy,
but she knew Tracey well because of 
those delicious treats and that persuasive 
voice. We got back in time for a snack,
and then it was poetry class time. Tracey
always asks how I’m doing. My little
episodes have gone away or are only 
shadows of their former selves. I don’t
understand what set them off, and neither
do the doctors, but they’re gone now.
Tracey made herself my friend. She lives
in a very different way, in a large house
with extensive grounds. She and Bill
travel the world so he can hunt big game
in Africa and Australia. She always
goes along. They work together on house
improvements, and she manages a large
garden She gives me my own corner
of her life, keeps my list of phone numbers
handy and my house keys. In one day
she made herself my friend.